The Secret Garden

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The Secret Garden (1993, the version my mom and I swear by) is an adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel published in 1911 that tells the story of Mary Lennox, the neglected daughter of wealthy British parents in colonial India. After being orphaned in an earthquake, she is shipped to the shockingly foreign landscape of her uncle’s estate on the mysterious Yorkshire moors. (A transition I relate to on a visceral level as a kid who grew up between Thailand and the U.S.) Mary isn’t likable at first: She is lonely, spoiled, angry, stubborn and fiercely independent. Mostly left to her own devices, she explores the foreboding mansion and sprawling grounds, eventually befriending Colin, her self-pitying bedridden cousin whom she quickly cuts down to size, and Dickon, a kind and enchanting boy with an almost supernatural way with animals. Together they discover and cultivate a walled-off garden that becomes their private paradise.

The Secret Garden glimmers with magic, from the winds wailing and whistling around the corners of the old stone mansion to the friendly robin and rustling leaves guiding Mary to the hidden garden door obscured by deep green vines. Dickon stands out with wholesome magnetism as the object of my young heart’s affection. I will forever define romance as Mary and Dickon getting lost in each other's eyes as they pose for a photograph on a swing, only snapping out of it when a jealous Colin calls their attention back to himself. The garden is both a place of healing and an escape from the adult world. Colin grows physically stronger and reconnects with his father who is still grieving the loss of his wife. Mary, who has felt unwanted her entire life, learns that she, too, is loved. Dickon stands at a distance and weeps boyish tears for his friends. At that moment, you realize they’ve bloomed as brightly as the garden around them.

Adrian PatenaudeComment